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Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's relationship timeline, in their own words

The couple has opened up on "Red Table Talk," in memoirs and beyond.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have been candid about the deep love that they share for each other.

After getting married in 1997, the couple welcomed their son, Jaden, in 1998 and their daughter, Willow, in 2000.

In Jada Pinkett Smith's upcoming memoir, “Worthy,” the actor opens up about the inspirational and painful moments in her life, including the fact that she and Smith have separated and have been living “completely separate lives” since 2016.

In Pinkett Smith's Oct. 13 NBC News primetime special with Hoda Kotb, the actor revealed that although her and Smith are still legally married, they are no longer romantically together.

“I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be,” she explained of what caused the breakdown of their marriage.

Pinkett Smith added that while she has thought about divorcing, she's never been able to follow through with it.

“I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce. We will work through ... whatever,” Pinkett Smith said. “I just haven’t been able to break that promise.”

Read on to learn more about Pinkett Smith and Smith's relationship.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith meet

When Pinkett Smith was 22 years old, she met Smith when she went to audition for a role at the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

In her NBC News primetime special with Hoda Kotb, Pinkett Smith recalled their first encounter.

"I was like, OK, he's hanging out here fishing, you know what I mean? Seeing all the pretty girls coming out the audition room and I was like, 'Don't talk to me unless you're trying to give me a role,'" she recalled and laughed.

Pinkett Smith and Smith had previously talked about her audition during a 2018 conversation they had on “Red Table Talk." Pinkett Smith said she didn't get the role because she was "too short."

"Yes," Smith replied.

The "I Am Legend" actor then said that he already knew of her because she was on the hit TV show "A Different World," where she played the character, Lena James.

"I knew there was something in our energy that would be magic," he said.

While telling the story, Smith said he asked his "Fresh Prince" co-star Alfonso Ribeiro if he could set them up on a date and Ribeiro said he knew someone that could introduce them.

Smith said he then went to a taping of "A Different World" during the first season of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" to meet Pinkett Smith, but he ended up meeting his first wife, Sheree Fletcher Zampino, who is also the mother of his oldest son, Trey, instead.

"I walked in. I sat down in the audience and the taping started and then Alf was like, 'That's my boy that knows her.' And he sat down and I was like, 'Yo, who is that girl he's with?'" Smith recalled. "The dude that was going to introduce me to Jada was with another girl and I was like, 'Who is that?' And it was Sheree. I went to 'A Different World' to meet Jada and met Sheree and ended up marrying Sheree and having Trey with Sheree."

After a few "near misses" of meeting Pinkett Smith, Smith said he finally got the chance to talk to her at an event that Tisha Campbell and her then-husband, Duane Martin, held.

"We had that moment and we connected," he said. "But I was married. That was it."

Pinkett Smith added, "We did not have an affair while he was married. Let's be clear about that."

Will Smith and Sheree Fletcher Zampino get divorced

In 1995, Smith and his first wife, Sheree Fletcher Zampino, got divorced.

While recalling the moment on "Red Table Talk," Smith said he had doubts about their marriage leading up to the divorce, but since he didn't believe in divorce, he still continued on with their relationship.

It wasn't until Zampino filed for divorce from the "Men in Black" actor on Valentine's Day that he started to realize their relationship was over.

"She hit me hard," he said.

"I was like, 'Ouch! Ouch! And I still told her, I said, 'No. You can't have a divorce and she hit me with the, 'So you're going to make somebody stay with you who doesn't love you?' And I said, 'I'm actually not. Nope, I'm not. And that was the one that got me," he said.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith reconnect

Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith
Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith arrives on the red carpet outside the Dolby Theater for the 94th Academy Awards in Los Angeles.Future Publishing via Getty Imag

After realizing his marriage was over, Smith said on “Red Table Talk,” that he then got in contact with Pinkett Smith. She was in her hometown of Baltimore at the time.

"I said, 'Hey Jada, what's up? It's Will.' She said, 'Hey, how are you doing? I said, 'OK, are you seeing anybody?'" Smith recalled of their phone conversation after he signed his divorce papers. "And she said, 'Um ... no.' I said, 'Cool, you're seeing me now.'"

"And my dumba-- was like, 'OK,'" Pinkett Smith laughed.

Smith explained that Pinkett Smith then moved back to L.A. to be with him and she "never spent one night" in the new house that she bought in Baltimore.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith start dating

While speaking with Hoda Kotb in the Oct. 13 NBC News primetime special, Pinkett Smith said she liked Smith's "straight-up" attitude and that was one of the reasons why she accepted his request for them to start dating.

"I kind of liked that," she said with a smile.

Soon, Pinkett Smith hopped on a plane to LA to go on her first date with Smith, and she said she knew from the first date that he was the one.

"He was a different kind of guy than I was used to dating, extremely intelligent, which I really liked because he kept me on my toes. And he was such a big dreamer," she said.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith get married

In 1997, Smith and Pinkett Smith tied the knot while Pinkett Smith was "three months pregnant" with their firstborn child, son Jaden, the couple said on "Red Table Talk."

"There was no way I was going to have a baby and have us not be married," Pinkett Smith told Hoda Kotb in the NBC News primetime special.

However, on “Red Table Talk," Pinkett Smith said she never wanted to get married and felt "pressured" by her mother to walk down the aisle.

“I was under so much pressure being a young actress and pregnant, and I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

“My first trimester was horrible. I was so upset that I had to have a wedding. I was so pissed. I went crying down the freaking aisle getting married," she added.

After hearing her daughter's woes, Pinkett Smith's mom apologized for not respecting her wishes.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t respect your wishes. It was totally a selfish: ‘I’ll never have that experience of my daughter getting married’ because you were my only child," she said.

Smith, on his end, said that he was happy to walk down the aisle again.

"I was like, 'Hey!'" he joked while pretending to walk down the aisle with Pinkett Smith.

"There wasn't a day in my life that I wanted anything other than being married and having a family," he added.

Smith, in his 2021 memoir, wrote that the traditional wedding ceremony was a sacrifice for Jada: “This would be the first of many compromises Jada would make over the years that painfully negated her own values."

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith welcome son Jaden

Smith and Pinkett Smith welcomed their first child, son Jaden, in July 1998.

For Jaden's 21st birthday, his mom talked about the love she has for him and said he was her "first experience of tangible love."

"After my first trimester ... being pregnant with you were some of the happiest moments of my life," she wrote on Facebook. "You were tangible joy. When you were born you became my first experience of tangible love. You have taught me so much about love and kindness. You have been a powerful teacher in my life. I feel so blessed you chose me to be your mom. Happy 21st to one of my dearest treasures. I love you Jaden."

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith welcome daughter Willow

In October 2000, Smith and Pinkett welcomed their second child, daughter Willow Smith.

In Pinkett Smith's NBC News primetime special with Hoda Kotb, she said she learned how to be a mother from watching her own mom, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, in action.

"There were a lot of things that she showed me not to do, but there were also a lot of things that she showed me to do," Pinkett Smith said of her mom, who previously struggled with drug addiction.

Pinkett Smith noted that she had a lot of power when it came to raising Jaden and Willow because Smith would always let her take the reins.

"The beautiful thing about Will is that when it came to the kids, that was my territory. He was really smart about that because he knew that he was always out and about and working," she said. "He knew that was my lead, but we did talk a lot philosophically about how we wanted our kids to be raised."

As a proud mom, Pinkett Smith shared some of the close relationship she had with her children. When Willow turned 21 years old, she posted a sweet shout-out to her daughter on Instagram.

The heartfelt caption read, "My baby ain’t no baby no mo’! You are 21 Ms @willowsmith! Your dad INSISTED that he have a baby girl and I’m sooooo glad he did. You are one of the most resilient, courageous, brilliant, insightful, talented, beautiful humans I know."

Pinkett Smith continued, sharing her hopes for her youngest.

"I don’t have the words to express the deep love I have for you or how happy I am to watch you spread your wings," she wrote. "BUT... I hope you can FEEL how much I love you and how much of a Divinely astounding blessing you are to me. Happy freak’n 21st Willoween Bean!!!!!!!."

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith address rumors about them being in an open marriage

In April 2013, Pinkett Smith appeared on HuffPost Live and addressed rumors that she and Smith were in an open marriage after fans started speculating that Pinkett Smith cheated on her husband with Marc Anthony.

“I’ve always told Will, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be okay,’” she said at the time. “Because at the end of the day, Will is his own man. I’m here as his partner, but he is his own man. He has to decide who he wants to be and that’s not for me to do for him. Or vice versa.” 

After Pinkett Smith's statement was met with some backlash online, the "Set It Off" actor decided to clarify her comments on Facebook.

She said, "Open marriage? Let me first say this, there are far more important things to talk about in regards to what is happening in the world than whether I have an open marriage or not. I am addressing this issue because a very important subject has been born from discussions about my statement that may be worthy of addressing."

"Here is how I will change my statement ... Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so," she said. "This does NOT mean we have an open relationship...this means we have a GROWN one."

Jada Pinkett Smith addresses allegations she had an affair with August Alsina

In 2020, Pinkett Smith and Smith's relationship was back in the spotlight when singer August Alsina claimed he had previously been in a romantic relationship with Pinkett Smith.

In light of his comments, Pinkett Smith invited Smith on "Red Table Talk" so they could have a discussion about it and that was when Pinkett Smith acknowledged that she and Alsina were more than friends.

She explained their relationship turned romantic when she and Smith were briefly separated.

“About four and a half years ago ... I started a friendship with August. We actually became really, really good friends,” Pinkett Smith said. “It all started with him just needing some help, you know? Me wanting to help his health, his mental state.”

“You and I were going through a very difficult time,” she told Smith, who jokingly replied, "I was done with your ass."

“Yeah, you kicked me to the curb,” Pinkett Smith said.

The "Madagascar" actor noted that she was "in a lot of pain" at the time and "broken" and that was when she “got into a different kind of entanglement” with Alsina.

“A relationship,” Smith clarified.

But once they started spending time together, Pinkett Smith said she realized she wanted to be with her husband again. When she told Alsina, he broke off communication with her, and she said they haven’t spoken since.

Reflecting on that episode, Hoda told Pinkett Smith in the NBC News primetime special that it looked like Smith was being “humiliated” in that moment. Pinkett Smith acknowledged how that episode came across to fans.

"I know," she said while shaking her head, adding that it wasn't intentional and that Smith wanted to be on the show that day — already well aware that she had a relationship with Alsina.

In 2018, they open up about 2011 breakup

The couple broke up in 2011, and opened up about the incident that precipitated the breakup in a 2018 episode of Red Table Talk.

It began at Pinkett Smith's 40th birthday, during which Smith hired Mary J. Blige to perform and put together a video about Pinkett Smith's lineage.

Pinkett Smith didn't welcome the gesture.

“She’s like, it’s my birthday and she told me that the party was the most ridiculous display of my ego,” Smith said on Red Table Talk. “Crushed, right? And to this day I know I was crushed because it was true. It wasn’t a party for her. When she called me on that, that’s when I snapped and that’s the only time you ever heard me snap. I snapped in front of Willow and Willow starts crying and she’s like, ‘Just figure it out.’”

Smith had more to say in his memoir, "Will," writing of the time, “Our marriage wasn’t working. We could no longer pretend. We were both miserable and clearly something had to change.”

Will Smith defends Jada Pinkett Smith at the Oscars

Smith made headlines at the 2022 Oscars when he got up out of his seat to slap Chris Rock after the host made a joke about Pinkett Smith on stage.

Rock joked about Pinkett Smith's bald hairstyle and said she was starring in a sequel to “G.I. Jane," which caused Pinkett Smith to roll her eyes in distain.

Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia, an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss.

"I was thinking about everyone else that has alopecia and suffers from alopecia in shame... and so I rolled my eyes like here we go again," she told Hoda Kotb during the NBC News primetime special.

After laughing off the joke, Smith then got on stage and slapped Rock right across his face. He then appeared to yell, “Keep my wife’s name out of your mouth.”

When the moment happened, Pinkett Smith said she didn't realize that Smith had actually slapped Rock because her view was partially blocked by Smith who had walked in front of her to go on stage.

"From where I'm sitting, it doesn't look like Will actually made contact with Chris. So I'm thinking Chris slipped it, and I'm like, 'Oh, this is interesting,'" she recalled.

Pinkett Smith said she didn't realize what had happened until Smith's publicist told the couple during a commercial break that Rock was not going to press any charges.

At that point, Pinkett Smith said everything finally sunk in and she made the decision to stand by her husband's side.

"I'm like, alright, and then I click in, and I'm like, you know what? I go straight into Jada mode; We're going to get through this, this is going to be a firestorm. I got you,'" she recalled herself saying at the time.

After the controversial moment, Smith apologized to Rock in a video he shared on Instagram.

"Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk," he said.

Pinkett Smith also talked about her husband's actions in a June 2022 episode of "Red Table Talk." On the show, she said she hopes that Smith and Rock will have an "opportunity to heal, talk this out and reconcile.”

“The state of the world today, we need them both, and we all actually need one another more than ever,” she said. “Until then, Will and I are continuing to do what we have done for the last 28 years, and that’s keep figuring out this thing called life together. Thank you for listening.”

Jada Pinkett Smith reveals she and Will Smith have been separated since 2016

In October 2023, Pinkett Smith's NBC News primetime special with Hoda Kotb aired, and in the episode, she revealed that she and Smith have actually been separated since 2016.

When asked why they never shared this news with the public, Pinkett Smith says it came down to “just not being ready yet ... Still trying to figure out between the two of us how to be in partnership ... In regards to, how do we present that to people? We hadn’t figured that out.”

Pinkett Smith also said there were "a lot of things" that caused her marriage to crumble.

"By the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying. I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be,” she said.

Although Pinkett Smith noted that she has considered a legal divorce, she said she has never been able to go through with it.

“I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce. We will work through ... whatever,” she said. “I just haven’t been able to break that promise.”